Foodservice is set to take centre stage at the 67th annual CRFA Show, which is expected to attract 1,200 exhibit booths and approximately 14,000 attendees to Toronto’s Direct Energy Centre between March 3 and 5.
This year, regional booths are gaining floor space with an influx of U.S. state pavilions and an expanded Ontario pavilion that will cover 5,000 sq. ft. and feature a culinary stage. “[It’s] going to have a bigger look, and there’s going to be 50 of the province’s most innovative food companies,” explains Garth Whyte, president and CEO of the Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association (CRFA).
Meanwhile, beverage companies are also under the spotlight this year. “One of the biggest things we’ve struggled with is trying to bring more beverage and alcohol [vendors] into the show,” explains Edwin Cabural, director of Expositions. So the Flair Bartending Stage will complement the coffee pavilion, which will be open to tea suppliers and include coffee, tea, POS equipment, cups and more. Building on that idea, a new pop-up bistro will offer samples of specialty meats, cheeses and alcoholic beverages for purchase.
The star-studded event will also include demos by Mark McEwan, Vikram Vij and Anna Olson, to name a few, while chef David Adjey, the show’s “roving ambassador” will interact with attendees and compile a list of “can’t miss” booths.
In terms of show events, CBC personality George Stroumboulopoulos will host the annual Breakfast of Champions, March 5, featuring Paul Methot of Pizza Pizza, Debra Lykkemark of Culinary Capers — a Vancouver-based catering company — and Susan Senecal of A&W Food Services of Canada sharing business tips. And, March 4 the annual Celebrate! Industry Night Out that honours the show’s best booths and long-standing CRFA exhibitors will present Kendale Products Ltd., with an award for its 50-plus years at the show.
As organizers prepare to open the doors, they’re optimistic. “There was a lot of buzz last year, and we’re building on that, and we are expecting to match or exceed what we had last year,” sums up Whyte.